Book List: This month, dig into archaeology

From Jurassic Park to A Brief History of Time, some of the best and most influential books ever written are science-based. Long before students get to Steven Hawking, however, books about science teach them to explore the world around them and inspire a curiosity that lasts a lifetime.
To encourage this spirit of discovery, HMNS provides monthly book lists on various science topics, from “Leonardo da Vinci” to “Lizards and Snakes” and everything in between on our web site. Nonfiction and science-based fiction options are provided at three levels: 2nd grade and below; 3rd – 6th grade; and 7th grade and higher.

Susan Buck, the museum’s Director of Youth Education Sales and a former librabrian, puts these lists together each month. Starting with December’s list, she’ll share her inspirations for each month’s topic here.

The museum’s December book list features books on archaeology.  When you think of archaeology you generally think of nonfiction, but one of my favorite books on this topic, Kokopelli’s Flute by Will Hobbs is a fantasy book.

In my “former life” I was a middle school librarian, and one of the great joys of that job was the opportunity to meet incredible authors who became friends.  I am proud to list Will Hobbs and his wife Jean among them. 

Several teachers at my school were using Will’s novels in their classrooms, so I invited him to speak to the students.  A former language arts teacher, Will was right at home, and the middle schoolers were immediately drawn to his easy-going style…and they loved his books.

When Kokopelli’s Flute was published, I was fascinated because Will generally writes about outdoor adventures, many of which he had shared with nieces and nephews. 

 My dog Nanny on the right

The cover of the first edition of Kokopelli’s Flute featured a picture of Tepary Jones, the main character, playing a flute.  However, Tep’s golden retriever, Dusty, did not appear on the cover – even through Dusty had a significant role in the book. 

At that time, our family had the most wonderful golden retriever, Nanny, so Nanny “wrote” a book review that I sent to Will.  The gist of the review was that Nanny loved the book, but felt slighted that Dusty, who plays such a significant role in the book, was not featured on the cover.  The next time Will visited my school I took him to my house to be photographed with Nanny.  Ironically, when I began research for this article I discovered that the cover of the paperback edition features both Tep and Dusty.  Authors tell me that they have no input into the covers of their books, but seeing the picture brought back special memories!

The cover of Kokopelli’s Flute,
reproduced here with permission.

In Kokopelli’s Flute, Tepary Jones and his golden retriever Dusty are camping out at the Picture House, an ancient Anasazi cliff dwelling not far from his father’s seed farm in northern New Mexico, to view a total eclipse of the moon when they encounter pothunters. After scaring them away, Tep cannot resist taking the small eagle bone flute the thieves left behind.  Playing the ancient flute is the beginning of a fascinating story, for Tep triggers his gift as a changeling, and each night after dark, he becomes a pack rat.

Tep’s parents are scientists who have taught their son the joys of nature and an appreciation of the history that surrounds them.  It is very easy to like this family who are so devoted to each other.
As readers become involved in the story they suspend disbelief, so the fantasy works—especially when a mysterious stranger arrives at the farm.  Kokopelli’s Flute has a strong environmental message and readers will remember Tep’s and Dusty’s special relationship long after the book is closed.

Will Hobbs is the author of seventeen novels for upper elementary, middle school and young adult readers, as well as two picture book stories. Seven of his novels, Bearstone, Downriver, The Big Wander, Beardance, Far North, The Maze, and Jason’s Gold, were named Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association. ALA also named Far North and Downriver to their list of the 100 Best Young Adult Books of the Twentieth Century. Ghost Canoe received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in l998 for Best Young Adult Mystery. Will’s books have won many other awards, including the California Young Reader Medal, the Western Writers of America Spur Award, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the Colorado Book Award, and nominations to state award lists in over thirty states.

Other books by Will Hobbs:  Changes in Latitudes (1988), Bearstone (l989), Downriver (l991), The Big Wander (l992), Beardance (l993), Far North (l996), Ghost Canoe (l997), River Thunder (l997), The Maze (l998), Jason’s Gold (l999), Down the Yukon (2001), Wild Man Island (2002), Jackie’s Wild Seattle (2003), Leaving Protection (2004), Crossing the Wire (2006), Go Big or Go Home (2008), and picture books Beardream (l997), Howling Hill (l998) .

You can get to know Will Hobbs better by reading the questions and answers posted on his Web site.

Mystery Skeleton – Update 4

While I was waiting for the skull to dry I checked out the bits and pieces.  A few curious traits stood out and I may be a bit closer to the cause of death for our mystery Fido.

Item 1:plaque.JPG

A weird chalky white substance was on several of the teeth.  I noticed it first on the big back teeth dogs use to crack bones. At first I tried to figure out where the skull would have been that mortar could have gotten on the teeth.  Then it hit me.  Not mortar.  Tartar.  This is what old bleached tooth plaque looks like.  Who knew.  So, what does any good skeleton preparer do with tooth plaque?  She gets herself a dental pick to clean said teeth.  No joke.  It is in my car right now.  This is a significant build up.  You can also see where the gum-line ended as that is the highest place the plaque rests on the tooth.

Item 2:

The next item of question is the amount of wear on the teeth in such weird places.  Here you have a picture of Millie’s teeth.  I went to the vet at the end of June and she told me to get soft Frisbee for Millie as her teeth are really getting worn.  Compare her canine teeth (the pointy ones in front) to mystery skeleton’s.

Mystery skeleton upper jaw.Millie’s worn teeth. Broken bottom canine teeth.

Now, in the first picture, you can see mystery skeleton’s canine’s resting on my thumb.  The point is nice and sharp. Millie’s teeth are in the next picture. Her upper teeth are squared off, but still fairly long.  The lower teeth are flat and end at her gum line.  She is about six years old.  So comparing the two sets of teeth, I would say that the mystery skeleton is an adult – all the bones in the vat are completely fused – and probably about 2 or 3 years old.  NOW!  Look at the third picture closely.  This is where things get weird.  The lower canines are totally broken off, but have been worn smooth.  You can actually see the quick – look for the two tiny dark colored circles in the center of each tooth.  This means that the tooth was broken off and that the dog lived long enough to work the teeth on something to even out the rough bits.  It had to have been painful.  Think about an exposed tooth when you get a crown.

Item 3:

On the inside of the lower right jaw, I found an interesting spot.  Literally.  There is a huge cavity in one of the teeth.  Huge.  I have had a couple small ones in my life, but never one that big.  Once again.  Painful.  Cavity.

Conclusion:  This dog had serious issues with his teeth.  The pain from the teeth probably made it uncomfortable to eat and quite possibly contributed to his demise.